Thunderbirds Jet Gets Show-Ready Paint Job

Red, white and blue screamed through the sky at this year’s Warriors Over the Wasatch Open House and Air Show as the Air Force Thunderbirds’ performance took center stage. 

This tight team of pilots and maintainers put on a premier show for the 550,000 guests, but it’s the members in the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group Corrosion Control Flight that continue to deliver the Thunderbirds’ signature paint scheme. 

On Oct. 9, the work center received an unscheduled, commonly referred to as “drop-in,” Thunderbirds jet for a paint job.  The dedicated men and women of the corrosion control flight exceeded customer expectations by completing the jet on Nov. 15, twelve days earlier than planned. What rolled out was a beautiful display of workmanship, Ogden ALC officials said.

The paint job is the most demanding of the 34 different paint jobs they produce. The Thunderbirds are painted at the end of each depot visit.

Not only does this first impression wow crowds at airshows, but it also instills confidence in military members that the Ogden Air Logistics Complex delivers a top-quality airframe. The secret to this success lies in a highly structured production machine sequenced to deliver airworthy, combat-ready aircraft at the least cost possible, officials said.

This paint gate, as it’s known, represents one of the last gates before an aircraft transitions back home, and is comprised of scripted tasks to deliver repeatable results.

Thunderbirds aircraft, like all incoming aircraft, pass through other gates: incoming, inspection, repair and operations, closeout and functional check flights round out the basic structure of various production machines. Each gate has a different timeline that is designed to control how long an aircraft is in any given production line. This allows for maximum production capability and process improvement.

Leveraging this structured approach drives down the amount of time aircraft from all over the Air Force and Navy spend away from their primary home station, officials said.

In just a few years using AFSC Way principles, teams have shaved hundreds of days off past performance, and these same teams continue to drive towards “Art of the Possible” goals. Leveraging the power of the gate structure, six squadrons have decreased their flow times and validated this Air Force Sustainment Center approach works.

Across the entire Ogden ALC, every group has implemented the tenets of the AFSC Way. 

Whether testing and overhauling commodities or crafting software code for aircraft, each major facet of operations restructured towards a gate-based architecture. By doing so, maintainers can now measure performance within a gate and pinpoint bottlenecks faster than ever before.

Reducing these constraints along a critical path allows maintainers to reduce waste and improve team cohesion at the same time. As speed and efficiency improve, the AFSC Way is driving together a tighter team, focused on delivering cost-effective readiness, officials said.

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